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Symbol and ceremony at the London Olympics

24 August 2012


From Mrs Julie Bacon
Sir, - Like the Revd Nick Bromfield ( Letters, 17 August), I also noted appreciatively the number of athletes who crossed themselves or made a gesture of prayer at the end of their events in the Olympics. But I had no expectation that these gestures would be remarked on by the commentators and pundits, and would have found it odd if these had done so.

The Olympics are about sporting prowess, and the commentators and pundits were chosen, I infer, for their expertise in these matters, not for their knowledge of the faith background of the competitors. If the athletes chose to mention God in their post-event interviews, then they spoke for themselves rather than had their actions interpreted for them by others.

The actions and signs had a power that did not need verbal interpretation. My attention was drawn earlier in the summer by Andy Murray's gesture after his Wimbledon matches of pointing and raising his face to the sky. I still don't know why he did it, or what it meant to him. I wondered if perhaps he was acknowledging a debt to a higher power. Whatever it meant to him, it caught my imagination, and other people's.

If the actions of the Olympic athletes similarly caught the eye of the audience (whether people of faith or not) and gave them pause for thought, then that is marvellous. After all, symbols have power that transcends the need for words.
JULIE BACON (Ordinand)
12 Grange Avenue, Ilkley, West Yorkshire LS29 8NU

From Mr A. Wills
Sir, - I didn't think the music content of the Olympics' closing ceremony was as well thought-out as the opening ceremony. The lighting and special effects were again spectacular, but the music was disappointing for many people.

The opening ceremony contained Christian songs, including "Abide with me", "Jerusalem", and "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer". The closing ceremony music was pop music targeted at the younger generations, but they could have played a popular song from every decade for the past 100 years. I would like there to have been a couple of popular classics (as the opening ceremony had) - including some of the beautiful music that is greatly enjoyed by young and old alike in the Last Night of the Proms.

Our rich Christian and musical heritage was completely omitted.
67 Dulverton Road, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 9AF

From the Revd Dr Nicholas Cranfield
Sir, - I realise that my former rural dean has lived in Italy for nearly 13 years, but the table of precedence has not changed in his absence. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not the "next-after-the royal-dukes", as Archdeacon Jonathan Boardman suggests ("Cameo role", Diary, 17 August).

The Archbishop is still ranked after the sovereign's husband, the heir apparent, and the sovereign's sons, grandsons, nephew, and cousins, not all of whom are royal dukes. I am sure that the Earl of Wessex, James, Viscount Severn, and Peter Philips, as well as Viscount Linley, will all have found suitable seating if need be, even at the Olympics.

What is interesting is that the Archbishops and, indeed, diocesan bishops are now ranked higher in terms of precedence than at any time since the Reformation, when the spiritual peers still outnumbered the temporal lords in Parliament.
10 Duke Humphrey Road, London SE3 0TY


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